Students Assist Local Families with Tax PreparationFebruary 28, 2013

Fifteen Rockhurst students, along with Tony Tocco, Ph.D., professor of accounting, spent time from January to mid-February preparing taxes for local families through Operation Breakthrough. Students gained hands-on tax preparation knowledge as well as experience using tax software, but walked away with much more.

“I learned a lot about myself and my future goals,” said Paloma Carmona, ’13, of Kansas City, Mo. “I was able to file tax returns for a number of low-income families, which allowed me to see first-hand just how vital refund checks can be to a family’s livelihood.

“It was also a great opportunity because we were tax-certified by the IRS, which is rare among undergraduate students.”

This initiative, part of the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs, offers free tax help for taxpayers who qualify. Overall, it proved to be both a high-impact learning experience as well as an opportunity for students to serve others.

“It is important for students to participate in service-learning efforts like this because not only do you get a real-life experience, but you’re also able to witness Rockhurst’s Jesuit values first-hand,” said Carmona. “We have a privilege to receive an education at Rockhurst, and it is our job to share our skills and knowledge with those around us.”

“This small exchange generates lasting memories,” said Tocco. “Students take away much more from a personal perspective than that of a professional perspective.”

But the experience did help clarify Carmona’s future goals.

“It helped me officially decide that I want to focus my career toward individual tax preparation in order to make sure each person receives the correct amount of refund,” she said.

This is Rockhurst University’s 28th year participating in the VITA program, and its third year working specifically with Operation Breakthrough.

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